Non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion to de­liver bi­cy­cles to Myan­mar ru­ral chil­dren

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS -

About 10,000 bi­cy­cles from failed bike-shar­ing com­pa­nies ofo and oBike will be given as gifts for needy stu­dents in Myan­mar.

A Myan­mar non-profit, Less­walk, bought the bikes in April and will start giv­ing them to the stu­dents from end-June. The bikes were bought from third-par­ties like ware­house op­er­a­tors who were left hold­ing the un­used bikes af­ter ofo and oBike folded in Sin­ga­pore and Malaysia.

Less­walk founder Mr Mike Than Tun Win, 33, is aim­ing to dis­trib­ute the bikes to ru­ral vil­lages, and has iden­ti­fied stu­dents liv­ing two kilo­me­tres away from school and aged be­tween 13 to 16 as the main ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the 10,000 bikes. Myan­mar with a pop­u­la­tion of 54 Mil­lion has one of the low­est GDP per capita in South East Asia and many of the stu­dents’ fam­i­lies are liv­ing in poverty. As Mike Than ex­plains, he is a fre­quent traveler and when driv­ing along in the coun­try side, it is a com­mon sight to see lines and lines of stu­dents walk­ing long dis­tance from home to school in ru­ral vil­lages. Some stu­dents can walk up to 1 hour from home to school and the fam­i­lies can hardly af­ford a sim­ple form of trans­port like bi­cy­cle or mo­tor­cy­cle. A school bus is al­most unheard of to the stu­dents in ru­ral vil­lages.

Due to its low spend­ing power, Myan­mar im­ports large quan­tity of used bi­cy­cles from Thai­land and Ja­pan and it pro­vides a cheap form of trans­port to the peo­ple here but even so, many fam­i­lies still can’t af­ford a used bi­cy­cle. Af­ter the an­nounce­ment of Obike’s bank­ruptcy and Ofo & Mo­bike with­draw­ing from the South East Asia mar­ket, many of these bike-shar­ing bi­cy­cles ended up in grave­yards and sold cheaply to re­cy­cling plants.

As Mike Than says, it was ex­tremely heart­break­ing to see the amount of money and re­sources wasted on bike-shar­ing com­pa­nies all end­ing up as scrap. A new bi­cy­cle that is es­ti­mated to cost be­tween USD 150-200 to man­u­fac­ture now ends up as a huge so­cial and waste prob­lem and pub­lic nui­sance. It’s prob­a­bly sad that richer na­tions might not know how to trea­sure such a sim­ple ne­ces­sity but to peo­ple in need; it can have a huge im­pact and even be life chang­ing.

The move­ment less­walk.org started by Mike Than buys and im­ports these bi­cy­cles into Myan­mar and dis­trib­utes to poor stu­dents liv­ing be­low the poverty line who live within

two kilo­me­tres or more from school and tar­get­ing grade 7-10 for free. All dig­i­tal locks are re­moved and a manual lock with key is given.

This first batch of 10,000 bi­cy­cles con­sist of 100% un­de­ployed un­used bi­cy­cles. It’s a rare one in a life­time op­por­tu­nity that came with these bike-shar­ing com­pa­nies exit from global mar­ket.

Af­ter this cam­paign, Mike Than hopes to in­spire other peo­ple to fol­low suit and cre­ate a global move­ment to ship used bi­cy­cles to poor coun­tries’ stu­dents in need. “The prob­lems we are help­ing to solve is not lim­ited to Myan­mar but faced by many coun­tries glob­ally. We also hope the pub­lic­ity will help the gov­ern­ment and re­cy­cling plant and bi­cy­cle grave­yard to re­think the ap­proach and turn de­vel­op­ing coun­try prob­lems into op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

Mike Than was born in Man­dalay city, he started school in Sin­ga­pore at the age of eight and grad­u­ated from Nanyang Tech­no­log­i­cal Univer­sity with a Bach­e­lor of Busi­ness. He spent al­most 18 years in Sin­ga­pore be­fore re­turn­ing to Myan­mar in 2011 to start his en­trepreneur­ship jour­ney.

To­day, Mike Than is the founder of Myan­mar lead­ing tech­nol­ogy com­pany BOD Tech Ven­tures (www. bodtechv.com) and the com­pany builds and in­vests in dif­fer­ent tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies like on­line travel, food de­liv­ery, bus tick­et­ing plat­form, ecom­merce, fin­tech, edutech and lo­gis­tics busi­nesses.

A Myan­mar non-profit, Less­walk, bought the bikes in April and will start giv­ing them to the stu­dents from end-June. The bikes were bought from third-par­ties like ware­house op­er­a­tors who were left hold­ing the un­used bikes af­ter ofo and oBike folded in Sin­ga­pore and Malaysia.

Less­walk founder Mr Than Tun Win is aim­ing to dis­trib­ute the bikes to ru­ral vil­lages, and has iden­ti­fied stu­dents liv­ing 2km away from school and aged be­tween 13 to 16 as the main ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the 10,000 bikes.

As he noted, the un­usual ven­ture was not easy to ex­plain to cus­toms when im­port­ing the bi­cy­cles.

“We have been fac­ing chal­lenges to ex­plain to Myan­mar cus­tom that these are ac­tu­ally for dona­tion and the pur­chase value is low. Took us more than 1 month to process port cus­tom clear­ing, and slapped with cus­tom du­ties & port charges. It wasn’t a very easy jour­ney with red tapes,” he ex­plained.

“An­other batch of Brand new 2700 Obike and 4000 Ofo bought from liq­uida­tor & ware­house own­ers will ar­rive in the month of June. All bi­cy­cles are for free for stu­dents liv­ing be­low poverty line in Myan­mar and need to walk 2km to school. The ini­tia­tive is bet­ter than ex­pected as I was try­ing to buy used bikes from re­cy­cling grave­yards but man­aged to get 100% new un­de­ployed bi­cy­cles at very good price! 10,000 Fam­i­lies will ben­e­fit by less­walk pro­gram!”

Start­ing on 1st June to 2nd June 2019, we are work­ing very hard at our ware­house to un­load these many bi­cy­cles. Be­fore end of June, an­other 6700 units will ar­rive to Yan­gon,” Than Tun Win said.

“I have been plan­ning it since 1st March when i pub­lished on Face­book and Linkedin. Af­ter post­ing on So­cial Me­dia I have re­ceived many calls and emails who of­fered to help, how­ever many leads failed to gen­er­ate true re­sult . I vis­ited a few grave­yards and was turned away due to trade­marks is­sue and cost of re­fur­bish­ing, le­gal is­sue due to liq­ui­da­tion process and many more. Fi­nally, with the help of my cousin, i was able to buy these 10,000 bi­cy­cles at good cost. This is the Be­gin­ning of Less­walk move­ment! 3 Months af­ter my post, I am su­per glad that I can fi­nally start work­ing on it! Big thanks to ev­ery­one and my fam­ily mem­bers for sup­port­ing my move­ment!” he said.

Photo: Supplied

Mr Mike Than Tun Win with a con­sign­ment of bi­cy­cles to be given to ru­ral chil­dren.

Photo: Supplied

Many of the bi­cy­cles are brand new.

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